Parsi Dairy Farm: Still fresh or no future?

Earlier this week, The Times of India reported that Mumbai’s iconic Parsi Dairy Farm may shut shop. A day later, the claims are being (unofficially) refuted. Shoddy journalism or the truth, we don’t know yet. But what I do know is that Parsi Dairy Farm needs to keep up with the times. Having been a Parsi Dairy customer for years, here’s my take.

First taste

My cousins’ maid plonked down four mugs of hot milk before us at 4 pm sharp. I cringed. The milk at my cousins’ place had a certain smell and tasted a bit funny too. Milk was absolutely compulsory twice a day, so I had no choice but to hold my nose awkwardly and hope it would go down my throat.

It was buffalo’s milk from the iconic Parsi Dairy Farm and nothing like the cow’s milk I had at home. As a kid, taste mattered to me, not how “iconic” the supplier was (this rule continues to hold true today for me). Despite having had hundreds of mugs of PD milk shoved down my throat, I never developed a taste for it.

parsi dairy farm mumbaii

The water problem

With a fan following and catchment area limited mostly to South Mumbai, Parsi Dairy needed to maintain its topnotch quality to hold on to their customers. Unfortunately for them, when my mom also began with Parsi Dairy milk at home (sad, sad days), the milk seemed to be more watery than cow’s milk.

I don’t know when or how the milk was watered-down, but this universal-in-India vice affected PD milk too. I’m not sure if the PD management ever corrected that, because we soon switched back to cow’s milk. The “packet-wala” doodh was good enough for me. My extended family took several more years to make the switch.

When Parsi Dairy came home

This is how it went every morning: The doodhwala in his blue shirt and khaki shorts rang the doorbell at an unearthly hour (you had a choice between 5 am and 1 pm). You opened the door all groggy, carrying a pateela and pink coupon. The doodhwala poured from his large metal container into your pateela, then you handed him the coupon which he took back to HQ. Those coupons had to be purchased from Parsi Dairy at Marine Lines. My mom often sent me there to buy those booklets and I had to cover my nose and mouth before I entered, so strong was the dairy smell.

It was all a big inconvenience.

Which working woman wants to wake up at 5 am for the milkman? She’d rather head to the supermarket or general store after office and buy her milk and curd in tetra packs. And now that you can order online, why run to buy coupons? I mean, we don’t even queue up for movie tickets anymore.

All businesses, whether dairy farms or social farming games, need to keep up with evolving technology and customer preferences if they want to succeed. Stick to old patterns, and sooner or later your bottomline will take a hit. Parsi Dairy may be a victim of its own old school charm, though they have tried to expand by supplying to a couple of supermarket chains locally.

Not so sweet anymore

Fresh grass-fed cow’s milk was introduced in Mumbai a few years ago and a lot of quality-conscious customers opted for it. Parsi Dairy lost quite a few customers to these new brands which were convenient, delicious and hygienic.

Parsi Dairy’s milk-based desserts were popular too. But good mithai shops are ubiquitous in Mumbai and western desserts are giving strong competition to traditional Indian sweets. For instance, I’d rather have frozen yoghurt than kulfi.

Yes, we all get nostalgic about Parsi Dairy Farms when we pass Princess Street at Marine Lines. Will we miss it if it shuts down? I’m not so sure. I know I won’t.

I prefer soy milk with my muesli and almond chocolate for all muh-meetha festive occasions.

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